Serve with Love

A diary. A recipe book. A travel journal. A photo album. A blog.


1 Comment

One Year

One year ago today I received the call that would change my life. One year ago today I found out that I had breast cancer. I remember that day so vividly, where I was, what I was doing, what I was feeling. It was a horrible day.

But today is a day to celebrate, it’s one year later and I am healthy and cancer free. Today I am reminded not only of what I have been through the past year, but also what my family and friends have gone through with me. I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have such a wonderful group of people that love and support me. I am reminded of how much God has blessed me. I am back in Fayetteville with Scott, I have a job I love with an amazing group of co-workers, and I have friends and family all around me. I am healthy, happy, and grateful.

These are the things that kept me going this past year, and these are the things I want to celebrate today.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

Advertisements


4 Comments

Adios Cancer

I am cancer free. CANCER FREE.

No more cancer. Hallelujah! I seriously can’t stop smiling.

Today was my final radiation treatment.

I’m moving to Fayetteville tomorrow.

The job search is underway.

Let this new chapter of life begin!

Thank you to every single person who lifted me up in prayer, reached out to me with words of kindness and gifts, and supported, loved, and encouraged me throughout this trial. I am beyond grateful for all of you. This experience has challenged me physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but I have learned so much.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Philippians 4:19-20


2 Comments

Countdown

Today, I am halfway finished with radiation. Fourteen treatments down, fourteen to go. On August 31, I will receive my final treatment, and be able to put this experience behind me. I am excited and relieved, it feels like an eternity since I received the diagnosis and began treatment, and I am ready to resume my life. But I’m also really anxious. Cancer has been the focal point for nine months now. Though I haven’t let it define my existence, it has been interwoven into every piece of my life, and I’m nervous about being normal again. Don’t get me wrong – I am ecstatic that the cancer will be gone, and so thankful that I DON’T have to think about it constantly anymore. But it’s kind of like a reverse culture shock, and I’m more than a little scared.

I’ve started looking for jobs in the Northwest Arkansas area, and plan to move back to Fayetteville at the beginning of September. I’m truly looking forward to all of this, but also wonder what my life will be like now. I have a new perspective on life, a new attitude toward my career and work-life balance, a new sense of the preciousness of every moment. This experience has changed me, and I’m wondering how that change will affect me and my decisions in the next weeks, months, even years.

FullSizeRender


3 Comments

The Rocky Road to Recovery

IMG_6246

Okay there are so many updates I need to cover, but first, thank you SO much to everyone who sent prayers, positive thoughts, love, etc. on the day of my surgery. The surgery was a success and much less scary than I anticipated (though I believe a lot of that has to do with the fact that I was knocked out and asleep for most of it).

I stayed two nights in the hospital following surgery and though I don’t remember much, I do remember (and have been told) that I was in a good mood, sleepy, and hungry. The drains felt weird and it was horrible having zero arm mobility and relying on others for everything (literally), but I was healing and doing great so they sent me home!

…And 24 hours later I was back in the hospital. I got an infection, cellulitis. Which is common for post-mastectomy patients but I was hoping my youth would be in my favor and that I wouldn’t have to deal with this. When my doctor told me at our post-op that I needed to be admitted to the hospital immediately, I thought surely it had to be a joke. But it wasn’t, I needed IV antibiotics and fast.

At this point, I’m pretty sure I had a panic attack. It was awful. And probably made worse by the fact that for the past 7 months I’ve been really positive and strong (maybe too positive). I guess this was the straw that broke the camels back, and 7 months of grief and anxiety manifested themselves in the UAMS parking lot. My anxiety about everything increased over the next few days. But I’m way better now. Guess I really needed to confront reality with all of this.

I was in the hospital for two days this time around, getting the IV antibiotics I needed to kick this infection’s butt. Once I felt better, they sent me home with a PICC line in my arm (see the picture above) and trained my parents on how to administer my IV meds. My mom has a second calling as a nurse I guess, because she’s been doing a fabulous job of taking care of me. We have to administer two hard core antibiotics twice a day (morning and night) which takes up a ton of time. Only 7 more days left at this point!

Praise! I got both of my drains out on Tuesday which was a HUGE relief. They weren’t really painful but they were really annoying and prohibited me from doing a lot of things.

And finally, today was my post-op with my breast surgeon. We got the results of the pathology report. They were great! The more in-depth test of the lymph nodes came back NEGATIVE, and the nipple cores came back NEGATIVE. Woo! What was left of the tumor was still pretty large (3.5 cm). but with tons of holes (thank you chemo). The cancer was Stage IIB. Of course, the surgeon is confident that we got everything during surgery, but I will still be having radiation therapy just to be sure. Then, hopefully, I can say that I am cancer free!

I am slowly regaining mobility in my arms, experiencing less pain, and feeling really good. I’m on the downhill slope, friends, and it feels SO good. God is absolutely amazing and I really could not have gotten through this and maintained my positivity and sanity without my faith. I am praying for continued good news: a clean bill of health following the completion of my antibiotics, and a smooth ride through radiation.

“The Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.” – 2 Timothy 4:18


8 Comments

Time for Surgery

Well, the dreaded day is finally upon me. Tomorrow, I will be having a bilateral mastectomy followed by a tissue expander placement. Two surgeons, six to eight hours.

It feels strange. I knew this was the surgery I wanted months ago, even before chemo began. But it feels different now that it’s actually happening tomorrow. I know that this is the best way to keep the cancer from growing and spreading, and that eventually I will look normal again, but it still feels like I am losing a piece of myself, a piece of my identity.

Not to mention the fact that I’ve never had a major surgery before. And I’m jumping in headfirst to a very long surgery. That is more than a little frightening.

So I’m scared and sad and nervous. But I’m mostly hopeful. Because I know that after this, I only have one more step (radiation) to ridding my body of cancer and resuming a normal life. I’ve learned a lot from this experience and I have grown so much. But I’m ready for this part of my life’s journey to be over. Though tomorrow’s surgery is not the final step, I will be one step closer.

I am so thankful for a God, family, and group of friends that have continually supported me and loved me.

I pray for strength, courage, and peace of mind tomorrow, and for healing following surgery. I pray that my family and friends have strength and peace as well. With God, all things are possible.


3 Comments

No More Chemo!

Last Day of Chemo!

Yesterday, my newsfeeds and phone were blowing up with pictures, well wishes, and love to celebrate my final day of chemo. It seems like my first chemo, January 15, happened just yesterday, though in reality it has been a long ride. It still hasn’t quite set in that I am DONE with this STUPID AWFUL CHEMO! But I am! And I am so thankful. Thank you to everyone who reached out in support yesterday – it made the final chemo that much easier. I feel so loved and so happy. Yall are amazing.

I am continuously reminded each and every day of the blessings God has given me, especially with regards to my amazing family and friends. This past weekend, my friends and family came out in full force to participate in the Susan G. Komen Ozark Race for the cure. Together, we raised over $1,800 for an amazing cause working tirelessly to end breast cancer. The weekend with friends and family was everything I could have imagined and more, and I am still on cloud nine as a result. It was such a special way to celebrate the upcoming end to my journey through breast cancer.

Thank you to everyone who participated, contributed, or donated. Thank you to all of you who have shown your support to me throughout this journey through your thoughts, prayers, love, kindness, gifts, dinners, visits, and encouragement. It means the world to me to know that so many are here for me, and has truly helped me to remain optimistic in a less-than-ideal circumstance.

Now I have a month of down time before surgery on June 5. I’ll have a few more appointments with my breast and plastic surgeons, and probably a few more tests prior to surgery. This will (hopefully) be the final part of my journey, as we don’t anticipate my needing any radiation unless we find some surprises during surgery. I appreciate the continued prayers and support as I go through and recover from surgery.

Each and every one of you is so very special to me. THANK YOU!

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

Much love to everyone,

-Jessica


3 Comments

Jessica’s Breast Friends

race

Shortly after my diagnosis, my Pi Phi sisters came together to decide how they could support me in my breast cancer journey. They decided to create a Race for the Cure team for the Susan G. Komen, Ozark race. What better way to get us all together again than to participate in an amazing cause in the region where we all met? It means so much to me that my pledge sisters are supporting me in this way, and I cannot wait to see everyone!

—–

Every minute someone in the world will die of breast cancer.

Let that sink in. Every. Minute.

That is crazy!

What if some of those deaths could have been prevented through early detection? Each day, Susan G. Komen provides 1,500 women in need with breast cancer screenings.

What if some of those deaths could have been prevented through education efforts? Komen does that too.

What if one day, fewer people, then eventually no one would have to deal with breast cancer or die from it? Komen funds breakthrough research that brings us closer to living in a world without breast cancer.

This organization has always been very special to me because my grandmother was a breast cancer survivor. I was also privileged to work as the volunteer chairman for the Ozark race for two years in college. Komen Ozark is even more special to me now as I am in the middle of my own journey through breast cancer.

This year, I am participating so other women can receive the education and treatment that they need for early detection and treatment of breast cancer. I am participating because I desperately want to live in a world without breast cancer.

If you are inclined to do so, please consider donating to this amazing organization, or joining my team and participating on Race Day! You can donate or join my team by visiting my page: http://ozark.info-komen.org/site/TR?px=20194470&pg=personal&fr_id=5225&s_src=komenfacebook&fb_ref=Default . Together, we can contribute to a great cause, and make an impact in the fight against breast cancer!

Thank you.

-Jessica


3 Comments

New Chemo, New Symptoms

IMG_0011

The past week and a half has been a whirlwind. The new chemo drug appeared to be better right at first – I was even able to celebrate the engagement of two amazing friends hours after receiving the chemo – but I soon found out it would be way worse than the other three chemos.

The new drug didn’t make me nauseous, which was such a relief. But in nausea’s place came extreme joint pain. I’ve never really experienced it before so I didn’t know what to expect when the doctors told me I may have joint pain. And apparently some people don’t get it very bad. But I did. And it was awful. A couple of days after the chemo, my joints felt a bit sore, and that progressed to a constant dull ache, which eventually transformed into sharp, shooting pain that would travel from my hips to my knees and knees to my ankles and toes. It kept me from doing things during the day, and kept me awake at night. I knew I could get prescription pain killers to help, but I really wanted to avoid that if at all possible.

I eventually had to cave, I couldn’t take any more pain. The pain medication gave me great relief, and I was starting to feel a lot better… Then I got a fever of 100.5, which was concerning since fever typically means your body is trying to fight an infection, and chemo patients like me have next to no white blood cells to fight infection. After two hours my fever was still high, and I spent the night in the emergency room followed by two nights in the hospital while the doctors fed me IV antibiotics and fluids and tried to figure out what was wrong.

It turns out it was nothing extreme, probably just a little bug. But I’m still on antibiotics just in case, to kick whatever bad bacteria is in my body out. And three days after being discharged, my joint pain has almost disappeared (and I don’t need pain meds anymore!) and I am starting to feel normal again.

This whole experience has been incredibly emotional for me. I was in so much pain and felt utterly helpless. I was so scared that my fever meant something horrible, like pneumonia, or that the cancer had spread. And I was so thankful, because I have amazing parents and an awesome boyfriend that never left my side throughout all of this. They are the reason that I can get through this and wake up every day still smiling. So huge shout out to mom, dad, and Scott for EVERYTHING. Each of you is so wonderful and so special to me and I truly, truly could not do this without yall.

And I had so many family and friends visit me while I was in the hospital and after. I feel so very blessed that I have such an amazing community surrounding me, supporting me, and loving me every step of this journey. God is so good, not only has he given me the strength, he has given me others to give me strength when mine runs out.

“In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.” – 2 Samuel 22:30


1 Comment

Here We Go Again

  

It seems like just yesterday I was writing a post about being halfway done with chemo! But it has been 3 weeks since then and today is the day for treatment number 4. It’s a different drug than what I’ve been getting, so I am a little worried about new side effects. But I’m also hoping my appetite and nausea will improve with this one, which would be great.

I was able to spend this past week surrounded by former coworkers, role models, friends, and loved ones, and it was absolutely amazing. Totally exhausting, but amazing. I miss being “normal.” Having a job, hanging out with friends, going to happy hour, climbing Pinnacle with Joey. But there’s just not enough energy in me to do all those things all the time anymore.

Soon though. I’m over halfway done as of this afternoon. I’m praying for smooth sailing with this new drug, and that the chemo is working so surgery can proceed as planned in June. Today I ask for your prayers as well, though I know many of you already pray for me every day. I couldn’t do this without each and every of you sending prayers and supporting me. God is good, and his light does shine so bright even in the midst of darkness.

“You light a lamp for me. The LORD, my God, lights up my darkness. In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall. God’s way is perfect. All the LORD’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.” -Psalms‬ ‭18‬:‭28-30


2 Comments

Halfway There!

So it’s been a while since my last update. This is because I was blissfully passing the days away with friends and loved ones in Kansas City, not even caring about keeping up my blog. I was incredibly lucky to be able to spend two weeks in between my second and third chemo treatments visiting Scott and all of my friends in the KC area. It was such a wonderful escape. I so enjoyed spending time with everyone and being a KC tourist. I definitely got to see a lot of the city that I hadn’t seen on prior visits, and it was so much fun! It’s slightly weird being back home again. I feel like I’m in a constant limbo these days, but I know that will change soon, and that this is not permanent.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 4.59.46 PM

Friday was my third chemo treatment – which means I am halfway DONE with this mess. The good news is that I’ve finally figured out the perfect timing for my medications to ensure that I have zero nausea, and minimal loopiness following a chemo treatment. The bad news is that I’ll be receiving a different chemo drug for the next three rounds, so we’ll be starting from scratch trying to figure out what works best to mitigate those symptoms. I’m slightly nervous to see what this new round will bring, but am hopeful that it won’t be too much worse.

My white blood count was too low this time to receive chemo, but we went ahead with it anyway. I’m pretty happy about this because it means staying on schedule, which means surgery can happen as planned. That said, I guess I’m supposed to be extra super careful about not getting sick, as if I can really control that (I’m already obsessively washing my hands, and their dryness is proof of that!).

Thank you again to all of you who have been praying for me, encouraging me, and sending me so much love these past few months. I would not be able to get through this without all of you. My heart is full!